Lynnda Targan’s Funny, You Don’t Look Like a Rabbi

Letty Cottin Pogrebin, a founder of Ms. Magazine and author of Deborah, Golda, and Me: Being Female and Jewish in America, reviews Funny, You Don’t Look Like a Rabbi, Lynnda Targan’s intimate new memoir about her arduous yet intrepid journey to fulfill her mid-life calling.

State Terrorism in the West

The United States and Terrorism: An Ironic Perspective

Ron Hirschbein
Rowman and Littlefield, 2015

This is a deeply insightful analysis of how self-destructive and dangerous to all humanity U.S. responses to and engagements with terrorism have been. For many decades, Ron Hirschbein has been an intellectual architect of Concerned Philosophers for Peace. He asserts that the U.S. campaign against terrorism has helped produce the very violent world it was supposed to prevent. Terrorism is most widely understood as the intended infliction of violence upon noncombatants or civilians, so it is ironic that most of the Western media fail to notice that the United States and its allies have been engaged in terrorism since World War II, despite sanctimoniously condemning the terrorist actions of others. Hirschbein gives us an alternative history of the past seventy years.

Jewish Thought

Human Nature & Jewish Thought
Alan L. Mittleman
Princeton University Press, 2015

Jews and Genes: The Genetic Future in Contemporary Jewish Thought
Edited by Elliot N. Dorff and Laurie Zoloth
Jewish Publication Society, 2015

One of the popular ways to dismiss plans for healing and transforming the world is to assert that the distortions we see in the contemporary world are an inevitable outcome of a fixed human nature. In his careful examination of Jewish thought, Alan Mittleman insists on the centrality of moral personhood not constrained by any set of conditions external to the process of ethical reflection and intuition. Not only are reductionist programs incoherent, he argues, they are also absurd. He argues for real freedom and transcendence but simultaneously insists on our human limitations: “We are holy—and capable of unimaginable evil.” Holding both, he suggests, is one of the great strengths of the Jewish tradition. Some genetic diseases are more prevalent among Ashkenazic Jews than among the general population, largely because Jews were always a small population and historically predominantly married only other Jews.

Writing and Spirituality

Nobody Home: Writing, Buddhism, and Living in Places
Gary Snyder, in conversation with Julia Martin
Trinity University Press, 2014

Nobody Home presents three interviews conducted by South African scholar and writer Julia Martin with the poet Gary Snyder that take place from the late 1980s to 2010, along with a selection of letters between them covering the same period. Martin was a young academic in apartheid South Africa when she first reached out to Snyder, motivated by her critical work on his poetry and thinking. Martin’s study and practice of Buddhism and her intuitive grasp of Snyder’s importance as a forefather of a growing international movement of spiritual environmentalism provoked Snyder to respond with sympathy and encouragement. They had an instant rapport in letters, which led to the interviews. This is a great period for Snyder, as his thinking about the nondualism of self/no-self and its relation to the world and all phenomena is culminating in his concentration on finishing Mountains and Rivers Without End, one of the crowning works of his generation of poets.